It’s just a hunch

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: October 6th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Stockbrokers, gamblers and soldiers would be lost without them, but scientists have traditionally dismissed hunches, those funny feelings that can’t quite be explained. But lately, that’s started to change. A spate of recent experiments has created a growing respect for the validity of hunches and their connection to the brain’s decision-making process.

In fact, some scientists believe these gut instincts are the brain’s attempt to send out an alarm before it fully comprehends what is happening. These experiments show some people are more attuned to their surroundings than others, and those who aren’t can be trained to improve. Why is this important? In certain circumstances… such as military combat… the ability to instantly read your surroundings could mean the difference between life and death.

For example, researchers at Princeton asked students to pick out figures in a series of photos as they flashed by on a computer screen. The students were told to focus on just two of the four pictures they were shown. But brain scans showed the students still registered the images they weren’t paying attention to, and even got better at it with training.

In real life, this could translate into a heightened awareness of nearby people and places. Ultimately, it could mean soldiers or others who must react quickly in life or death situations can be taught to become more aware of the threat of danger.

So the next time you get a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach, don’t be so quick to ignore it. Your brain might be trying to tell you something.